Electrically stimulated droplet injector for reduced sample consumption in serial crystallography

Mukul Sonker, Diandra Doppler, Ana Egatz-Gomez, Sahba Zaare, Mohammad T. Rabbani, Abhik Manna, Jorvani Cruz Villarreal, Garrett Nelson, Gihan K. Ketawala, Konstantinos Karpos, Roberto C. Alvarez, Reza Nazari, Darren Thifault, Rebecca Jernigan, Dominik Oberthür, Huijong Han, Raymond Sierra, Mark S. Hunter, Alexander Batyuk, Christopher J. KupitzRobert E. Sublett, Frederic Poitevin, Stella Lisova, Valerio Mariani, Alexandra Tolstikova, Sebastien Boutet, Marc Messerschmidt, J. Domingo Meza-Aguilar, Raimund Fromme, Jose M. Martin-Garcia, Sabine Botha, Petra Fromme, Thomas D. Grant, Richard A. Kirian, Alexandra Ros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


With advances in X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs), serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) has enabled the static and dynamic structure determination for challenging proteins such as membrane protein complexes. In SFX with XFELs, the crystals are typically destroyed after interacting with a single XFEL pulse. Therefore, thousands of new crystals must be sequentially introduced into the X-ray beam to collect full data sets. Because of the serial nature of any SFX experiment, up to 99% of the sample delivered to the X-ray beam during its “off-time” between X-ray pulses is wasted due to the intrinsic pulsed nature of all current XFELs. To solve this major problem of large and often limiting sample consumption, we report on improvements of a revolutionary sample-saving method that is compatible with all current XFELs. We previously reported 3D-printed injection devices coupled with gas dynamic virtual nozzles (GDVNs) capable of generating samples containing droplets segmented by an immiscible oil phase for jetting crystal-laden droplets into the path of an XFEL. Here, we have further improved the device design by including metal electrodes inducing electrowetting effects for improved control over droplet generation frequency to stimulate the droplet release to matching the XFEL repetition rate by employing an electrical feedback mechanism. We report the improvements in this electrically triggered segmented flow approach for sample conservation in comparison with a continuous GDVN injection using the microcrystals of lysozyme and 3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonate 8-phosphate synthase and report the segmented flow approach for sample injection applied at the Macromolecular Femtosecond Crystallography instrument at the Linear Coherent Light Source for the first time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100081
JournalBiophysical Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 14 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Biophysics
  • Biotechnology


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